The Acting Secretary of State to the Chargé in the Soviet Union (Kennan)
1692. War, has referred to Dept for reply Dearie’s M24904 and M24905 of July 5 transmitting text of two letters from General Golubev with respect to recent disturbance at Fort Dix and repatriation of German prisoners of war of Soviet nationality since Dept has received two notes from Soviet Embassy, Washington, on this subject.24 In view of receipt of communications through both diplomatic and military channels on this subject, the question has been raised by War as to whether the Soviets desire communications on this and related subjects to be transmitted through diplomatic or military channels. War has pointed out in this connection that frequently complaints concerning the repatriation of liberated Soviet nationals have been made the subject of official representations through both military and diplomatic channels and that when replies have been made to the Soviets such replies have been disregarded and the allegations renewed in their original form. In this connection particular reference is made to the protests of the Soviets concerning the reported mistreatment by the American authorities of 4,000 Soviet nationals at Dachau and 1,700 Soviet nationals in the United Kingdom. In the latter case despite the communication of the known facts concerning the treatment accorded to these Soviet nationals, the Soviet Govt reiterated these charges in a recent public statement. In the future, therefore, in cases where information has already been transmitted to the Soviet Govt, this Govt will not accept further communications or protests on the same subject unless a specific request for additional information or new protests are made.
The allegations made by General Golubev in his letters to Deane are further evidence of the attitude with which the Soviets have approached the entire repatriation question. The Soviet Govt has made repeated and unfounded allegations of violations by this Govt of the Yalta Agreement and has further made numerous exaggerated statements [Page 1101] on the mistreatment of Soviet citizens while in U.S. custody awaiting repatriation. In at least one instance Soviet repatriation representatives have shown a lack of military courtesy. Furthermore, the Soviet Govt has refused to abide by the spirit of the Yalta Agreement and in many cases by its terms. In this respect it has refused to permit: 1) American transportation to transfer liberated American POWs from areas under Soviet control when it was practical to do so; 2) the establishment and control by the American authorities of the internal administration of camps accommodating liberated American POWs; 3) American repatriation representatives in the numbers desired and contemplated by the Yalta Agreement to enter into Soviet controlled territories.
An immediate investigation of the Fort Dix disturbance was conducted on June 29 and was completed prior to the receipt of a request from the Soviet Embassy for representatives of the Embassy to participate therein. Contrary to General Golubev’s allegations that these POWs wished to return to the Soviet Union, this investigation has definitely revealed that this disturbance was caused by these POWs because of their reluctance to return to the Soviet Union and that the three who committed suicide did so for this reason. The POWs interviewed in this investigation stated that they intended to commit mass suicide by provoking the use of force on the part of the American authorities. The precautions taken by the American authorities were appropriate and effective and the prompt use of tear gas prevented additional suicides by hanging. The American authorities are making every effort by segregation, adequate guarding and other appropriate means to prevent further disorders and suicides. In the view of the aforementioned findings of this investigation, this Department would appreciate receiving from the Soviets information which would serve as a basis for General Golubev’s statement that these persons did not protest their return to the Soviet Union.
The Dept has informed the Embassy that in view of the completion of this investigation it will not be possible for representatives of the Embassy to participate therein. However, Soviet military representatives were authorized to visit these POWs at Fort Dix and to be present at the time for their embarkation. They have recently returned from a visit to Fort Dix where they interviewed 20 of these POWs, all of whom indicated in no uncertain terms that they did not wish to return to the Soviet Union and stated that they were being very well treated by the American authorities. The Soviet representatives after having obtained such testimony from these 20 POWs, canceled further interviews which had been arranged and stated that they did not wish to speak to any more of these POWs.
The number and whereabouts of persons claiming Soviet nationality among German POWs in US, except those now at Dix claiming [Page 1102] protection under the Geneva Convention, were immediately communicated to Soviet Emb. Such persons were segregated and placed in separate camps where they were visited by representatives of the Emb. All such persons have now been repatriated direct to Soviet Union via U.S. west coast ports with the exception of a few who at the request of the Soviets have not been moved for reasons of health.
Since the group at Fort Dix insisted upon being treated as German POWs under Geneva Convention, representatives of the Emb have not been permitted to visit them heretofore and they were not and will not be transferred direct to Soviet Union for the reasons which have been repeatedly communicated to the Soviet authorities. Moreover, for the same reasons their proposed transfer to Fort Dix was not made known before being carried out. However, Soviet Emb was notified immediately thereafter of their proposed return to Germany for transfer to Soviet authorities. This Govt therefore has fulfilled its undertaking under Art. 2 of the Yalta Agreement particularly in view of the exceptional circumstances in the case of these persons.
At the time of the visit of the Soviet representatives at Fort Dix it was ascertained during the questioning that although careful screening had been carried out by Army at least one of POWs was not a Soviet citizen and doubt existed as to the Soviet nationality of some of the others. In view of this finding a joint State–War Board will re-question all of the prisoners to ascertain whether in fact they are Soviet citizens. Pending the receipt of findings of Board and further study of entire question, a final decision regarding this group cannot be made.24a
You are requested at your discretion to communicate with the FonOff along the lines of the foregoing.
[President Truman, Marshal Stalin, and Prime Minister Churchill (later British Prime Minister Clement Attlee), with their advisers, met in conference at Berlin, July 17–August 2, 1945. For the record of discussions and other related documentation regarding the consideration given the question of the repatriation of alleged Soviet nationals, see Foreign Relations, The Conference of Berlin (The Potsdam Conference), 1945, volume I, pages 794–801, and volume II, pages 259–260, 367–368, 374, 497, 499, 503, 504, 549–550, 563, 574, 603, 604, 1162–1166, and 1600.]
Neither the two military communications from Major General Deane nor the two letters from Lieutenant General Konstantin Dmitriyevich Golubev, Deputy Chief, Soviet Commission for the Repatriation of Prisoners of War, are printed. The “disturbance at Fort Dix” refers to the riot which occurred among 154 German prisoners of war believed to be of Russian nationality when, on June 29, 1945, they were being assembled at Fort Dix, New Jersey, in preparation for their return to Europe and delivery to Soviet authorities. The disturbances, which resulted in the suicide by hanging of three prisoners and the serious wounding of several others, apparently originated in the reluctance of the prisoners to be returned to the Soviet Union.
In a note to the Department of State dated June 5, the Soviet Embassy expressed its insistence that all Soviet citizens, without exception, who were liberated by American armed forces, including those who were taken while in German military uniform, be returned to the Soviet Union (711.62114/6–545).↩
- In a note to the Soviet Ambassador on August 7, the Acting Secretary of State transmitted the findings of the investigation of the Fort Dix disturbances conducted by the Inspector General’s Office of the War Department. The note drew attention to the investigation’s conclusion that the disturbance was apparently caused by the prisoners of war because of their reluctance to return to the Soviet Union and that the precautions taken by the American military authorities were considered appropriate and effective under the circumstances (711.62114/7–2045).↩